CHRIS Martin has hailed the impact of loan star George Thorne since he came into the Derby County side.
West Bromwich Albion midfielder Thorne, with the Rams for the remainder of the season, has been earning rave reviews in recent weeks.
The 21-year-old joined Derby at the end of January and had to wait until March 22 for his debut - the 5-0 demolition of Nottingham Forest.
But he has started the last eight games and is currently keeping the experienced John Eustace out of the team.
“George has been quality since he was brought in,” said Martin.
“Eusty did very well in that holding role before he got suspended after taking a few bookings for the team.
“And George has stepped in and been magnificent.
“He is very good on the ball and does his work, defensively.
“He has a bit of bite in the tackle and can pass the ball.
“He has got everything. He is a Premier League quality player and we’re lucky to have him.”
Thorne is one of three young players on loan at Derby from Premier League clubs, along with Liverpool defender Andre Wisdom and Chelsea forward Patrick Bamford.
He scored his first goal for the Rams in the Good Friday victory at Doncaster Rovers, where he was also named man of the match.
“I think the manager and staff have done well to get him in – along with Patrick (Bamford) and Andre (Wisdom),” Martin said,
“We’ve been very good in the loan market this season and I think George has added an extra dimension to us.
“We were very good before he came into the team but he has been a continuation of what we’ve been doing.
“He’s very good on the ball. He’s relaxed and has a calmness about him, which we need sometimes, like we did at Doncaster.
“It was key for him to keep the ball for us and take the sting out of the game, which he does very well.”
While Thorne has been a useful addition to Steve McClaren’s squad, target man Martin has proved a key member of the side since Nigel Clough snapped him up on a free transfer from Norwich City last summer.
He has been the focal point of the team and became the first Derby player to score 20 goals in a season since Dean Sturridge in 1995-96.
The 25-year-old striker currently has 22 goals to his name, with two Championship fixtures remaining, plus at least two more games in the play-offs.
As ever, though, Martin is keen to share the plaudits with his team-mates.
“We have a fantastic squad here and that is credit to this manager and the last one,” he said.
“We’ve got some fantastic characters and some brilliant players.
“It’s a privilege for me to turn up every day and train with them – and obviously play with them.
“I have the easy part of getting myself into the box and they will create the chances for me.
“If I keep getting myself in there, hopefully I can keep sticking them away.”
Martin’s role could be described as “lone front man” but, in practice, he is rarely isolated in attack, with the likes of Craig Bryson, Will Hughes and Jeff Hendrick supporting him from midfield, along with the wide men.
“We play quite expansively and there is plenty of support for me,” he said.
“It’s not a case of being an isolated lone front man and everyone just lumps the ball up to me.
“We’re patient and build up nicely and that helps me in terms of getting people around me.
“There’s still some stuff for us to work on.
“We’re not the finished article yet – we’re quite a young side and we’re still learning.
“But we learn pretty quickly and have done all season.”